Diagnosis Of Benign Tumors
Doctors use a variety of techniques to diagnose benign tumors. The key in diagnosis is determining if a tumor is benign or malignant. Only lab tests can determine this with certainty.
Your doctor may begin by performing a physical exam and collecting your medical history. Theyll also ask you about your symptoms.
If you dont already have a primary care doctor, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
Many internal benign tumors are found and located by imaging tests, including:
Benign tumors often have a visual border of a protective sac that helps doctors diagnose them as benign. Your doctor may also order blood tests to check for the presence of cancer markers.
In other cases, doctors will take a biopsy of the tumor to determine whether its benign or malignant. The biopsy will be more or less invasive depending on the tumors location. Skin tumors are easy to remove and only require a local anesthetic, while colon polyps would require a colonoscopy, for example, and a stomach tumor may require an endoscopy.
When To See A Doctor
If youve been diagnosed with cancer elsewhere in your body and you start to experience strong headaches, tell your doctor. The cancer may have spread to your brain. Be ready to describe all your symptoms in detail. The nature of your headaches will help your physician make a better treatment plan.
If you have no cancer history, see your doctor or a neurologist if a headache lasts for several days or weeks with little or no relief.
A headache that continues to worsen with no response to traditional pain treatment should also be evaluated. Weight loss, muscle numbness, and sensory changes that accompany a headache should be checked promptly, too.
Abnormal Physiological Changes: Large Limbs And Irregular Periods
If your hands and feet are suddenly getting larger, even after youve crossed the growth years, scan for a pituitary tumor.
A tumor in the pituitary gland can cause irregular periods, excessive production of breast milk, development of breasts in men, and excessive body hair. It may also lead to the enlargement of your hands and feet, obesity, and changes in your blood pressure.12 A drooping eyelid or a drooping mouth can indicate a tumor in the brain stem.
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Top Tips For Coping With Fatigue
Fatigue can be part of a vicious cycle caused by the side-effects of brain tumours and their treatments. Many of the symptoms of fatigue can make you feel more exhausted, making the fatigue worse and, consequently, increasing the impact of those symptoms.
However, if you can work out what triggers your fatigued, you may be able to find a way to break the cycle.
Many people have found the ‘5 Ps’ helpful, especially with the support of family and friends. They can help by giving you gentle reminders or prompts to help you manage your daily activities.
Write a list of activities that you do regularly and assign priorities to them, with number one being the most important to you.
For example, walking the dog may be a one seeing friends, a two and ironing, a six.
If you find this tricky, you can split the activities into four categories:
- things I have to do
- things I want to do
- things someone else can do for me
- things that don’t need to be done or don’t need to be done right now.
Keeping a diary of your activities and when you feel fatigued can help you identify possible triggers and patterns in your energy levels.
Colour coding your activities may be helpful, for example:
- red for high-intensity activities, like exercise or going to work
- orange for medium-intensity activities, like meeting a friend or housework
- green for low-intensity activities, like relaxing or listening to music.
Early And Late Effects Of Radiation Therapy
- Early side effects happen during or shortly after treatment. These side effects tend to be short-term, mild, and treatable. Theyre usually gone within a few weeks after treatment ends. The most common early side effects are fatigue and skin changes. Other early side effects usually are related to the area being treated, such as hair loss and mouth problems when radiation treatment is given to this area.
- Late side effects can take months or even years to develop. They can occur in any normal tissue in the body that has received radiation. The risk of late side effects depends on the area treated as well as the radiation dose that was used. Careful treatment planning can help avoid serious long-term side effects. Its always best to talk to your radiation oncologist about the risk of long-term side effects.
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Brain Tumours That Affect The Pituitary Gland
Because the pituitary gland has such varied functions, tumours in this area can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms are often due to changes in the levels of the hormones that the gland produces and there is a range of reasons why those hormone levels may fluctuate, hence delaying the diagnosis of a tumour.
Symptoms caused by hormonal fluctuations include:
- Delayed puberty in children
- Loss of muscle mass in adults
- Easy bruising of the skin, often combined with muscle weakness
- Diabetes insipidus, caused by problems with a hormone called vasopressin , commonly known as antidiuretic hormone . Symptoms are extreme thirst and/or excessive urination
Professional medical advice should be sought to check the cause of these symptoms as soon as possible, although they are also more commonly symptomatic of other illnesses or diseases.
However, if no definite alternative cause for your symptoms can be found and if you suspect something is really wrong, and if youre experiencing a combination of these brain tumour symptoms together or in succession, then insist that you or your family member gets referred to a neurologist and for an MRI scan. Early detection and treatment may avoid acute complications later on.
If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Breast
If you have radiation to the breast, it can affect your heart or lungs as well causing other side effects.
Short-term side effects
Radiation to the breast can cause:
- Skin irritation, dryness, and color changes
- Breast soreness
- Breast swelling from fluid build-up
To avoid irritating the skin around the breast, women should try to go without wearing a bra whenever they can. If this isnt possible, wear a soft cotton bra without underwires.
If your shoulders feel stiff, ask your cancer care team about exercises to keep your shoulder moving freely.
Breast soreness, color changes, and fluid build-up will most likely go away a month or 2 after you finish radiation therapy. If fluid build-up continues to be a problem, ask your cancer care team what steps you can take. See Lymphedema for more information.
Long-term changes to the breast
Radiation therapy may cause long-term changes in the breast. Your skin may be slightly darker, and pores may be larger and more noticeable. The skin may be more or less sensitive and feel thicker and firmer than it was before treatment. Sometimes the size of your breast changes it may become larger because of fluid build-up or smaller because of scar tissue. These side effects may last long after treatment.
After about a year, you shouldnt have any new changes. If you do see changes in breast size, shape, appearance, or texture after this time, tell your cancer care team about them right away.
Less common side effects in nearby areas
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What Is Radiation Treatment For Brain Tumors
Radiation therapy kills brain tumor cells with high-energy x-rays, gamma rays, or protons.
Radiation therapy usually follows surgery. The radiation kills tumor cells that may remain in the area. Sometimes, people who can’t have surgery have radiation therapy instead.
Doctors use external and internal types of radiation therapy to treat brain tumors:
Some people have no or few side effects after treatment. Rarely, people may have nausea for several hours after external radiation therapy. The health care team can suggest ways to help you cope with this problem. Radiation therapy also may cause you to become very tired with each radiation treatment. Resting is important, but doctors usually advise people to try to stay as active as they can.
Also, external radiation therapy commonly causes hair loss from the part of the head that was treated. Hair usually grows back within a few months. Radiation therapy also may make the skin on the scalp and ears red, dry, and tender. The health care team can suggest ways to relieve these problems.
Questions to ask your doctor before starting radiation treatment
Frequent Confusion & Cognitive Issues
Feeling constantly confused, loss of concentration, memory loss, and disorientation are common cognitive issues patients with a brain tumor can experience. Depending on the location of the tumor, it can begin to affect cognitive performance due to the pressure the tumor is putting on these specific areas of the brain. Naturally, declining cognitive abilities are a sign of other neurological conditions such as Alzheimers disease and dementia, meaning that a decline in brain function does not necessarily indicate a brain tumor. However, noticeably declining cognitive abilities and various cognitive problems are critical symptoms that need to be reported to a medical professional as soon as possible so that the initial cause of these cognitive issues can be assessed, diagnosed, and treated as soon as possible.
Brain tumor symptoms largely depend on the location of the tumor within the brain. Reveal why location is significant in diagnosing a brain tumor now.
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How Fertility Might Be Affected
For women: Talk to your cancer care team about how radiation might affect your fertility . Its best to do this before starting treatment so you are aware of possible risks to your fertility.
Depending on the radiation dose, women getting radiation therapy in the pelvic area sometimes stop having menstrual periods and have other symptoms of menopause. Report these symptoms to your cancer care and ask them how to relieve these side effects.Sometimes menstrual periods will return when radiation therapy is over, but sometimes they do not.
See Fertility and Women With Cancer to learn more.
For men: Radiation therapy to an area that includes the testicles can reduce both the number of sperm and their ability to function. If you want to father a child in the future and are concerned about reduced fertility, talk to your cancer care team before starting treatment. One option may be to bank your sperm ahead of time.
See Fertility and Men With Cancer to learn more.
What Is Chemotherapy Treatment For Brain Tumors
Chemotherapy, the use of drugs to kill cancer cells, is sometimes used to treat brain tumors. Drugs may be given in the following ways:
- : Chemotherapy may be given during and after radiation therapy. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. They may be given in an outpatient part of the hospital, at the doctor’s office, or at home. Rarely, you may need to stay in the hospital. The side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on which drugs are given and how much. Common side effects include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, headache, fever and chills, and weakness. If the drugs lower the levels of healthy blood cells, you’re more likely to get infections, bruise or bleed easily, and feel very weak and tired. Your health care team will check for low levels of blood cells. Some side effects may be relieved with medicine.
- In wafers that are put into the brain: For some adults with high-grade glioma, the surgeon implants several wafers into the brain. Each wafer is about the size of a dime. Over several weeks, the wafers dissolve, releasing the drug into the brain. The drug kills cancer cells. It may help prevent the tumor from returning in the brain after surgery to remove the tumor. People who receive an implant that contains a drug are monitored by the health care team for signs of infection after surgery. An infection can be treated with an antibiotic.
Questions to ask your doctor before starting chemotherapy treatment for a brain tumor
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What Are The Common Causes Of A Brain Tumor
The causes of brain tumors are not yet clearly known however, there are common risk factors or triggers that may cause a brain tumor, such as:
- Being overweight or obese increases the risk of certain types of brain tumors.
- An unhealthy lifestyle including smoking and excessive alcohol consumption may trigger abnormal cell growth.
- The risk of getting brain tumors becomes higher with increasing age.
- Repeated exposure to radiation through ionizing radiation, X-rays, and computed tomography scans, power lines, nuclear plants, mobile phones, and cell phone towers may trigger tumors.
- Exposure to certain harmful chemicals may trigger a brain tumor. Examples include diesel exhaust, coal tar volatiles, tobacco smoke, arsenic compounds, cadmium compounds, nickel compounds, and more.
- People who have had cancer such as leukemia as a child have a higher risk of brain tumors as an adult. Adults who have had cancer also may have a chance of getting brain tumors, but further research is needed to confirm this finding.
- In some rare cases, brain tumors may be genetically inherited. If a lot of people in a family have had brain tumors, an individual may be at an increased risk of the condition.
How Are Brain Fog And Chronic Fatigue Related
Anything that reduces your brains ability to make energy will result in symptoms. The two most common symptoms are chronic fatigue and brain fog!
What are common causes of reduced brain energy production?
- Chronic inflammation
- Reduced blood flow /oxygen to the brain
- Low thyroid function
- Hormone imbalances
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How Long Do Side Effects Last
Remember that the type of radiation side effects you might have depends on the prescribed dose and schedule. Most side effects go away within a few months of ending treatment. Some side effects may continue after treatment ends because it takes time for the healthy cells to recover from radiation.
Side effects might limit your ability to do some things. What you can do will depend on how you feel. Some patients are able to go to work or enjoy leisure activities while they get radiation therapy. Others find they need more rest than usual and cant do as much. If you have side effects that are bothersome and affecting your daily activities or health, the doctor may stop your treatments for a while, change the schedule, or change the type of treatment youre getting. Tell your cancer care team about any side affects you notice so they can help you with them.
Vision Problems: Loss Of Vision Or Double Vision
Seeing floating shapes in front of your eyes, seeing everything double, or losing vision on and off may all indicate tumors in different parts of the brain.
- Blurred sight, vision loss that comes and goes, or seeing floating shapes like small dots or thin strands in front of your eyes can all indicate a tumor.
- A tumor in the occipital lobe may mean loss of vision in one eye or sometimes both eyes.
- A tumor in the brain stem may cause double vision.
- Pituitary tumors or adenomas affecting the optic nerve may lead to loss of field of vision,6 which means your peripheral vision may be affected. In simple words, if you are staring straight ahead, you will be able to see only whats directly in front of you and not sideways, almost as though you were looking through a tunnel. This is why this type of vision loss is also known as tunnel vision.
- Sometimes, flickering or twitching eyes may also be a sign of a tumor in the cerebellum. An eye twitch can also be caused by these 7 factors.
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If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Abdomen
If you are getting radiation to your stomach or some part of the abdomen , you may have side effects such as:
Eating or avoiding certain foods can help with some of these problems, so diet planning is an important part of radiation treatment of the stomach or abdomen. Ask your cancer care team about what you can expect, and what medicines you should take to help relieve these problems. Check with your cancer care team about any home remedies or over-the-counter drugs youre thinking about using.
These problems should get better when treatment is over.
Some people feel queasy for a few hours right after radiation therapy. If you have this problem, try not eating for a couple of hours before and after your treatment. You may handle the treatment better on an empty stomach. If the problem doesnt go away, ask your cancer care team about medicines to help prevent and treat nausea. Be sure to take the medicine exactly as you are told to do.
If you notice nausea before your treatment, try eating a bland snack, like toast or crackers, and try to relax as much as possible. See Nausea and Vomiting to get tips to help an upset stomach and learn more about how to manage these side effects.
About The Signs And Symptoms Of A Brain Tumour
Symptoms depend on where the tumour is in the brain and how slowly or quickly it grows. They may develop suddenly, or slowly over months or even years.
As a tumour grows, it can press on or grow into nearby areas of the brain. This can cause symptoms because it stops that part of the brain from working normally. Symptoms can also happen because the tumour is increasing the pressure inside the skull.
These symptoms can be caused by conditions other than a brain tumour. But it is important to get them checked by your GP straight away.
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